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Rural Living for May 27, 2010

Keeping hydrated

by Carol Dunn

HUERFANO– One thing about living in the country, there are things to keep you busy outdoors from sunup to sunset.  Some of us get so busy, we forget about drinking fluids to keep our bodies hydrated.  In our dry climate, you don’t notice yourself sweating, but you are still losing fluids as you labor under more intense sunlight in the thinner atmosphere of our high altitude.

    Three-quarters of your body weight is due to water.  When more water leaves your body than you replace, dehydration sets in.  Even mild dehydration robs your energy and leaves you feeling tired.  Prolonged dehydration can lead to low blood pressure, confusion, kidney problems, shock, muscle cramps, heart rhythm problems, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.  All of these complications are preventable by drinking enough fluids throughout the day.  If you wait until you are thirsty, you may already be experiencing the effects of dehydration.

    According to an online article by the Mayo Clinic, the old rule of (8) 8-ounce glasses of fluids a day is still a valid guideline – and more during/after strenuous exercise.  Ideally, these rehydrating fluids would not contain caffeine.  And although we all get tired of water and want something a little more exciting, nothing hydrates your body like plain old water.  For instance, sugary drinks like soda give your body a blast of energy, but when the sugar level crashes, your body craves more.  Your thirst is not really quenched.  Sports drinks are great for replacing minerals lost during exercise, but keep in mind that most contain sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or sugar substitutes.

    Take along plenty of water on hikes and outings.  Never drink raw water from springs, streams or lakes, no matter how “clean” it looks, because of the danger of becoming infected by microscopic organisms called giardia.  Giardiasis symptoms, which appear a week to a month later, are similar to “Montezuma’s Revenge,” and if you’ve never had that, you don’t want to find out what it’s like. 

    Take care of your body in our special climate, and you will be able to enjoy outdoors Huerfano County to its fullest.